Social media provides a platform for anybody with access to a keyboard. In many ways, that access makes it easier for Christians to proclaim the Gospel and offer good teaching. In this day in age when fewer and fewer evangelical churches preach expositional sermons and encourage congregants to understand Scripture in its proper context, blogs, tweets and Facebook posts can serve as needed nourishment to Christians.
Sadly, social media can also enable false teachers to spread their poisonous doctrines.
Since false teachers utilize social media so effectively, we can praise God for tech-savvy people who have both the courage and the discernment to repudiate their errors. Admittedly, some writers who consider themselves discernment bloggers carry things way too far and end up making legitimate discernment bloggers look unsavory. But once you weed those writers out, you appreciate the ones who stand against error and guide readers back to the Word of God.
Invariably, those of us who expose false teachers receive angry responses, demanding to know whether or not we confronted said teacher privately in accordance with the steps that Jesus laid out in Matthew 18.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~~Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV)
Ha! That puts us in our place! Of course, they hope we won’t notice that they really only mean verse 15. Not the part about our brother sinning against us exactly, because the people accusing us of violating Matthew 18:15-20 really don’t believe the teachers we call out have sinned. And not about us gaining brothers or sisters when the teachers accept correction from us, because the private conversation should exonerate the teachers and make us realize that the fault is actually ours for daring to question their teachings. They demand only that we contact the teachers privately and then say nothing further.
Interestingly, they almost always confront our failures to go through the Matthew 18:15-20 process by (you guessed it) publicly confronting us on social media. Apparently, Jesus didn’t expect them to abide by the standards they impose on us.
Additionally, as I suggested earlier, they seem oblivious to verses 16-17, which do mandate telling others about the fault when repentance doesn’t occur during private conversations. Perhaps we have tried to confront false teachers privately. Some of them structure their organizations so that their critics can’t reach them privately. Verses 16-17 definitely allow for increasing degrees of open rebuke when teachers refuse any sort of private conversation.
Of course, this passage actually refers to church discipline rather than public discourse. When people teach publicly, the need to protect their reputation simply doesn’t exist. The Bible says that public sin warrants public correction.
19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. ~~1 Timothy 5:19-21 (ESV)
False teachers generally persist — in the presence of many more than two or three witnesses who testify to their false teachings — in teaching distortions of Christianity. Beginning with the our pastors, we must publicly expose their errors, even as we earnestly pray for their repentance and restoration.
The Lord’s instructions in Matthew 18:15-20 are serious. We must therefore take them seriously enough to avoid using them to protect false teachers.